IDAHO FALLS – The buildup of winter snowpack in the mountain ranges across Idaho is off to a slow start.
So far this season, officials say snowpacks for the Upper Snake Basin in southeastern Idaho and mountain ranges in central and northern portions of the state are far below normal.
Still, Ron Abramovich, a water supply specialist for the Natural Resources Conservation Service, said it’s too soon to make dire predictions about low spring runoff.
“I’m a little hesitant to say December will be the way it is right now,” Abramovich told the Post-Register. “Hopefully, it will get better.”
Forecasts for December call for some precipitation, but no significant amounts that could help make up lost ground.
State and federal water officials also point out that snowpack accumulation got off to a slow start last winter, causing consternation for some water officials and irrigators. But a moist December and January helped propel the state to one of the best water years since 1999.
“Right now, a lot of the snow measuring stations are at or near record low for snow water content,” Abramovich told the Associated Press. “If we don’t start getting moisture soon, we are going to be playing catch-up the rest of the season.”
Idaho’s low snowpack mirrors levels recorded in other Western states, though some areas in Idaho are faring better than others. For example, the Upper Snake Basin has a snowpack that is 60 percent of the 30-year average, while the Owyhee Basin in the southwest corner of the state is just 7 percent.
Last year’s abundant snowpack helped overcome a dry 2006 and lessened threats to issue curtailment orders on hundreds of groundwater pumpers across southern Idaho who draw water from the Eastern Snake Plain Aquifer, which has lost volume after nearly a decade of drought conditions.
In March, state and federal officials reported snowpack levels across the state at 95 percent to 130 percent of average, well above levels recorded the previous year.
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